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Incorporating Visuals for an Impactful Annual Report Design

By Zachary Houle on Mar 2, 2017 9:55:36 AM

If you want to deliver all of your milestones of the past year and highlight the unique culture of your business or organization to donors or stakeholders, your annual report is your chance to shine. The thing is, you have to make sure it is well-designed and, as Forbes magazine points out, “without 10 point type and 30 pages of tables.”

However, if you put out a snazzy looking annual report that incorporates visuals, you’ll impress stakeholders, if not a garner a new cheerleading section for your group or business.

So how do you jazz things up? The three elements that make up a visually impactful annual report are:

  • Creative infographics.
  • Original photography.
  • Careful information architecture.

Pepper your annual report with those things and you’re well on the road to success. Why?

  • Visuals are processed much faster than text, which leads to powerful emotional connections.
  • Visuals cut through the clutter for those with short attention spans (which is just about everybody these days: statistics show that the average attention span for an adult has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to about eight seconds in 2015).
  • Visuals can make stats look even more impressive.

But how exactly do you make an impactful annual report with visuals? This blog post will guide you through the process.


Is a Visual Annual Report Right for You?

First, you have to ask yourself two questions about how you’re going to use your annual report.

  1. What’s the report’s purpose? You have to figure out if your report is a year in review that looks almost like a university’s admissions brochure or a fiscal document with numbers and tables. Using visuals might not work in a detailed fiscal report. So you have to figure out your report’s purpose for it to dictate its form.
  2. What are your resources? If you only have one full-time graphic designer on staff, chances are you might not have the time to produce a report full of custom infographics -- unless you hire outside of your organization. You’ll also have to consider if your report is going online or if you have a budget for a print version.


Seek Inspiration

If you decide to go with a more visual approach, do some looking around. While you don’t want to copy or plagiarize, have a gander at what other organizations or businesses in your sector are doing.

When you do so, you might pick up a few good ideas about what sort of visuals you may want to incorporate into your report’s design.


Identify Your Data

This is particularly important if you’re doing an infographic. Most annual reports are long written documents that flood readers with information. Therefore, if you’re going to do an infographic, you have to resist the temptation to throw all of the information from a traditional report into the graphic representation. Only the most important information should go into it.

If you’re struggling with figuring out what key data you’re going to use, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Who are we as a business or organization?
  2. Who is our audience?
  3. What story do we want to tell the audience?

Knowing who you’re talking to is crucial because different audiences value different information. For instance, telling people how healthy you are as a business or association might be more valuable than how you’re helping a segment of the population with your product or service.


Be Personal

Even though your infographic will illustrate your data points, you need to connect it to real people. You do that by telling a story about your success while appealing to your customers’ cares and concerns. Tug at the heartstrings.

A really effective strategy in an impactful annual report is to use photographs to tell the story of someone you’ve helped. That’s way more compelling and inspiring that a bunch of numbers.


Stay On Brand

If you have a website or recent print publications, you’ve already begun the process of coming up with a visual brand. Make sure you use the same design elements of your site and publications in your annual report to make sure your look and feel stays consistent and it stays visually impactful.

By being consistent, people are more likely to associate your report with your business or organization and this will bolster trustworthiness. In addition, you should make sure that the report is consistent with your mission statement as well, if you have one, for the same reasons.


Finally, Make Sure Your Designer Knows What They’re Doing

Knowing how you want your visually impactful annual report to look is half the battle. Unless you have an in-house graphic designer, you’re going to have to hire someone to design the report for you.

This means choosing the right person for the job. If you don’t have someone in-house, hiring a graphic designer who has done a report that you’ve liked in the past will help you get a good result.

This, too, means having good communication. Your designer needs to know the visual elements and key message that you want to get across in the report. You should have this conversation with them in person, with all of the key stakeholders in the room, to make sure there isn’t any confusion. Talk extensively to the designer about your needs so that they’re clear as a bell what you want the annual report to look like.

Reach Out

If you need any help creating a visually appealing and impactful annual report, contact Cyan Solutions now. We’re experts in the field and have worked on annual reports for major clients in the past. We’re happy to talk to you to find out what you need to make it a smashing success, and we’ll work with you to deliver a successful final product.


Read More About Annual Reports


Topics: Graphic Design, Annual Reports

Zachary Houle

Zachary Houle

Zachary Houle is a resident of Ottawa, Ontario, where he blogs for a number of clients. As a sometimes writer of fiction, as well, he is the recipient of a $4,000 arts grant from the City of Ottawa for emerging artists and a Pushcart Prize nominee. His fiction and poetry has been published in countless online and print literary journals and magazines in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. He enjoys blogging about books on Medium.com, and was recently named one of the Top 50 writers on the topic of books on Medium.